Lego 8547 Mindstorms NXT 2.0
Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 - 8547
A buying guide to the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 - 8547. Lego Mindstorms is a brilliant educational toy. It's great value for money, but it's not cheap. This guide will make sure you understand what you get for your money and what extra items are worth buying for your child (or yourself!)
You'll learn what you need to know about batteries for the Lego Mindstorm NXT and what books I recommend for getting the most out of your set. Don't miss the section about batteries - that's important!
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What is the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0?
The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 is a kit for building programmable robots from Lego. The set includes the pieces required to build lots of different robots. Initially you can follow instructions to build models designed by others. Then you can learn to design and program your own robots.
LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 (8547)
The brains of the set is an Intelligent Brick - a unit that contains a small computer and a screen. The intelligent brick can be programmed by software that runs on a PC or Mac (it connects with a USB cable or wireless Bluetooth). The Brick controls sensors and motors and also gets feedback from these devices. The Brick has an LCD screen and buttons to navigate its menus. There is also a speaker for playing sounds.
The Lego Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 is very flexible, the components can be used to make many different robots. It comes with designs for four very cool robots (we'll show you these in a minute) and there are 6 bonus robots (we'll show you where to find these later). Then there are lots of robots designed by other people in books and on the web. And with a bit of experience you can come up with your own creations. I'm very impressed with the variety of robots that can be made with the set.
Lego Mindstorms Demo Video
Let's take a look at the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 in action. You'll see that you can make a wide range of robots with the included components.
Lego Mindstorms Software Demo - Click picture to try the interactive demo
Lego Mindstorms uses a visual approach to programming the robot. You place blocks in sequence and configure them. The software runs on a PC or Mac and you transfer completed programs to the Intelligent Brick.
What age is Lego Mindstorms suitable for?
The officially stated age range is from 10-18 years of age. Some younger children will definitely enjoy Mindstorms, especially if they have an older sibling or parent who is will to help. This set makes a great shared parent-child project. Often father-son, but lots of girls will enjoy this too, and as Mom to two boys I will definitely not be missing out!
Teenagers will get loads from Lego Mindstorms as you can get as sophisticated as you like. This is a real programming and engineering kit. Not something children will easily grow out of. Don’t worry if you’re buying for an older teen, if they like science and logic then they will get plenty out of Lego Mindstorms.
Lots of adults make Mindstorms robots as a hobby. You can get pretty sophisticated with them when you start programming them.
What Can You Make with Lego Mindstorms NXT
Building instructions for four main robots are included on the CD that comes with the Lego Mindstorms NXT set: Alpha Rex, RoboGator , Shooterbot and Color Sorter.
You can watch these robots in action in the videos below.
There are also six pfficial bonus models that you can download and make. (And loads more unofficial designs that you can get too.)
Lego Mindstorms NXT Robot Videos
These videos show the four main models that building instructions are included for. They are home videos made by kids who have made the robots.
Lego Mindstorms RoboGator
And a close-up of RoboGator because we like him!
LEGO Mindstorms NXT Ultrasonic Sensor (9846)@ Amazon
An Ultrasonic Sensor is included in the LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Set. The LEGO Mindstorms NXT Ultrasonic Sensor is included in the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 set. I've included it here so you can see what it looks like.
The Ultrasonic sensor is used to determine the robot's distance from a physical object. It does this by generating ultrasonic (high frequency sound) waves. When these waves hit a physical object they bounce back. The ultrasonic sensor measures how long the waves took to return and that tells it how far away the object is. You can use this information to get your robot to do something when it gets within a certain distance of an object. Because the ultrasonic sensor uses sound, it will work in the dark too.
The ultrasonic sensor is designed to look like a pair of eyes which is very effective in humanoid and creature robots.
LEGOÂ® MINDSTORMSÂ® Touch Sensor (9843)
The LEGOÂ® MINDSTORMSÂ® NXT Touch Sensor is a push button switch that allows your robot to detect when it has been pressed or released. Two touch sensors are included in the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 set.
These sensors allow you to interact with the robot and get it to react to pressure.
LEGOÂ® MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Color Sensor
The LEGOÂ® MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Color Sensor is an upgrade over the basic light sensor that was included with the 1.0 kit. The color sensor can be used in a number of ways. One color sensor is included.
- It can detect light levels
- It can detect 6 different colors
- It can be used as a colored lamp using its red, green and blue LEDs!
This is a very neat sensor. We have an automated house, we have light sensors that close our curtains. And we have colored lights that we can control. This color sensor is brilliant for learning the basics of automation. Very cool!
LEGO Mindstorms NXT Interactive Servo Motor (9842)@ Amazon
You've probably guessed this, but the interactive servo motors allow your robot to move. Three interactive servo motors are included in the set.
The servo motors can be precisely controlled, to the degree. A built-in rotation sensor can measure speed and distance and report back to the NXT intelligent brick.
LEGOÂ® MINDSTORMSÂ® Sound Sensor (9845)
Note that the Lego Mindstorms NXT Sound Sensor is NOT INCLUDED in the NXT 2.0 kit (it was in the 1.0 kit), but you can buy it as an add-on.
You can use a sound sensor (optional extra) to build a robot that follows sound, or dances! With two sounds sensors you can build a robot that can tell which direction a sound is coming from.
Lego NXT 2.0 Batteries
OK, this is going to be a long discussion I'm afraid. There's quite a bit to consider when deciding on the batteries for your NXT.
The Intelligent Brick requires 6 AA/LR6 batteries (not included) and gets through them fairly quickly.
Energizer- AA2 Lithium Batteries (2-Pack), 7 Times Longer
One option is to use long-life batteries. These Energizer- AA2 Lithium Batteries are recommended as long-lasting and powerful and are widely used by Mindstorms owners.
SANYO NEW 1500 eneloop 4 Pack AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries w/ Charger
Rechargeable batteries are an option to save cost and avoid worries about running out of batteries at the crucial moment, much greener too. But Lego does warn that they may have lower power, particularly for driving the motors. Don't forget you need 6 AA batteries.
This charger gets superb reviews: SANYO NEW 1500 eneloop 4 Pack AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries w/ Charger
You'll need 6 batteries so you can either buy extra batteries (you won't be able to charge all 6 at the same time if you do this), or you can just buy a second 4 pack with recharger (at time of writing this isn't much different in cost to just buying the extra batteries) and then you'll be able to charge a full set at once. Of course, if you want to have set of backup batteries waiting then you'll want 12 AA rechargeable batteries, then you can get into the habit
LEGO NXT Rechargeable DC Battery and Charger 9793, 9883
There's also a NXT Rechargeable DC Battery and Charger you can buy which is a bit simpler. Just one item to recharge and swap over. Although the initial cost is higher, it works out cheaper in the long run that using the expensive Lithium batteries. And offers more power than the rechargeables.
The added bonus is that you can actually operate the Intelligent Brick when it is plugged into the charger (obviously it will charge more slowly if you're using it.)
LEGO NXT Rechargeable DC Battery (9793)
Lego Mindstorms Transformer 9833 9 Volt (to Recharge 9788 Rechargeable Battery)
And your final option is solar power! Well you'd have to live somewhere very sunny all year for this to be your main power source, but it's a great add on:
dSolar 4W System Solar Power System for Lego Mindstorms NXT
LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 (8547)
Lego Mindstorms NXT Books
Initially your child will probably make robots designed by others. This is great fun and a good way to learn about the capability of the NXT. At some point they are likely to want to build their own designs, some kids get to that point pretty quickly. It's a big jump to go from following instructions to coming up with a completely original robot. Luckily there are some excelent book that fill this gap.
LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0: The King's Treasure (Technology in Action)
I would have loved this book when I was a kid / teen. It's very well thought out and teaches kids to design their own models so solve problems. The problems are built in to an adventure story which pulls you in and makes the whole thing more interesting. Sample solutions are included, but kids are encouraged to have a go at coming up with their own solutions. The sample models only include parts contained in the Lego Mindstorm NXT 2.0 set. There's some great guidance on learning to experiment. And the CAD drawings showing how to make the designs are brilliantly well done. This is an excellent book which will help your child get the most from their NXT set.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book: A Beginner's Guide to Building and Programming Robots
This book is a really detailed manual and learning guide for the NXT 2.0. It explains all of the components, how they work and how to use them. It has some brilliant introductory material to demystify the NXT when you first get it (all those bits and connectors can be a bit overwhelming at first.) The book gradually builds up from simple techniques to more advanced techniques. There are loads of hand-on exercises and you'll always understand why you are doing things (this is very different to just recreating a design from instructions.) And at the end includes some pretty advanced robots that you can understand and build.
More Lego Mindstorms NXT Books
There's a really wide range of Lego Mindstorms books to choose from.
Lego Mindstorms Advanced Projects
You can build some very advanced models using Lego Mindstorms including a Rubik's Cube solver made from just the parts included in the kit.
There's even a Sudoku puzzle solver. I'm very impressed with this! This does require the light sensor.
Both these projects can be built following the provided software and the programs can be downloaded and transferred to the intelligent brick. Actually understanding how the algorithms work is a much harder exercise.
Lego Mindstorms Rubik's Cube and Sudoku Solver
Educational Value of Lego Mindstorms
I'm an IT professional and a Mom to two boys. I think Lego Mindstorms NXT is superb. As a child I learned to program on my Sinclair Spectrum. It was a small self-contained environment where you could do moderately interesting stuff (well I thought so!) It was definitely this childhood experience that led me into an IT career.
These days it can be harder for kids to get access to the technical aspects of a computer. It's all hidden. Lego Mindstorms is a great way to enable kids to learn the basics of computer programming and engineering in a fun way. I would have absolutely loved Lego Mindstorms as a child (and I also think it's pretty cool as an adult!)
If you're wondering whether this toy is really educational and provides skills that are relevant to modern IT and engineering, the answer is definitely yes. Programming is about mastering logical thinking and learning to break down a problem into small enough steps that a computer can understand and execute them. Lego Mindstorms does a great job of this. And the physical aspect of assembling the models and understanding how the sensors interact with the real world is a brilliant grounding for engineering and science.
Lego have managed to create a learning experience that will grow with your child. You start off following the predesigned models that come with the kit. Once you have made the models as specified you can start to make small changes and see what happens. This is just how I learned to program my Spectrum - I copied in other people's programs from magazines (no web back then!) and then made changes and observed what happened, eventually I could write my own programs.
Similarly with Lego Mindstorms, kids can progress to creating their own models and writing their own software. Initially the software is written using a drag-and-drop visual language. Great for learning as you can see the options and try them out. This approach will be sufficient for most kids. You can try out the software online here at the Lego Mindstorms Software Demo.
But there's a further step that older kids and teenagers can take if they really have an interest and aptitude for programming. You can also use a proper programming language with Lego Mindstorms including a variant of Java. Java is in wide use in the IT industry. Being able to program in Java is definitely a valuable skill to have (though if your kids do take this route, I'd encourage you to get some books on best practices so they develop good techniques.)
The sensors are brilliant for getting some hands-on understanding of physics. And the servo motors are brilliant for budding engineers. The set includes three servo motors so you can come up with some advanced designed and you'll need to think about how the different parts of your robot will be coordinated.
Lego Mindstorms Educational Sets
Lego Mindstorms are very popular in schools and Lego provides a special educational set.
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Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 - 8547